Sesame Street returns to the Middle East

Sesame Street returns to the Middle East
Culture: After 25 years, a pan-Arab Sesame Street returns, the first such broadcast since the Gulf war.
2 min read
02 September, 2015
Some national franchises, such as the Palestinian Sesame Street, have been broadcast [Getty]
After a 25-year hiatus, Ifsah ya simsim, the Arabic version of Sesame Street is set to return to TV screens on Friday.

The show has not been broadcast in the Arab world since the studio was destroyed in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf war.

"Our children need content that is developed specifically for their needs and matches their cultural values," Noura al-Kaabi, CEO of channel twofour54, said at the official launch of the show in the UAE on Tuesday.

A song from the Egyptian Sesame Street
Through use of "classical Arabic", the show aims to educate young children in the region, as well as provide entertainment and increase social awareness, she said.

"Whether you are in Abu Dhabi or in Marrakech - the basis and essence is the same. We all want our children to have good manners and values," Kaabi told The National.

In the middle of various conflicts gripping the region, many hope that the show will give some light relief to as many as 45 million viewers across the Arab world.

"I measure the success of the show not by number of viewers but how children react to Shamsa," said puppeteer Asma al-Shamsi.

Although the pan-Arab puppet show has long been absent from screens, there have been a number of localised versions in Arab countries, such as Shara'a SimSim, a Palestinian edition, which was discontinued after USAID cut funding to the programme. 

During the Gulf war, Iraqi troops reportedly stormed the set of Iftah ya Simsim and held a number of the costumes hostage.  

Although the Cookie Monster was reportedly never recovered after the war, fortunately he's set to make a comeback later this week.